A Barwani-like incident can happen anytime anywhere, thanks to poor health infrastructure, ill-equipped hospitals, staff shortage and overworked doctors across Madhya Pradesh, health experts said on Thursday.
At least 60 patients had either lost their eyesight or developed infections at a Barwani cataract eye camp recently allegedly due to ill-equipped surgical instruments and below standard hygiene. And the situation is no different across all government hospital in the state, experts said.
Madhya Pradesh Medical Officers’ Association (MPMOA) general secretary Madhav Hasnani said, “We are short of more than 11,000 government doctors in the state. At present the state has around 3200 doctors which is much below the WHO recommendations.”
The state should have at least one doctor for 1000 people, he said, adding, “If we classify it further we will find that government hospitals have now started catering to only 25% of the population, the rest prefer private hospitals. Even then the number of government doctors is less,” he said.
“The situation is extremely miserable in various parts of the state. The district hospital in Barwani has only 100 beds. Is it enough for a population which is somewhere close to 7-8 lakh?” he questioned.
Barwani has one government hospital and one civil hospital is located in Sendhwa. The surgical operation like that for cataract can only be performed by a single trained ophthalmologist. However, the newly appointed two doctors who are deputed at Sendhwa and Barwani are not medically trained to do that, he said.
RS Palod, who was suspended after the Barwani tragedy, himself related old stories of a failed medical scenario. “I have performed about 35,000 cataract operations in the last 24 years. A prime reason for this was due to the fact that I was the lone ophthalmologist in the area till 2003,” he said.
Each year, the target for cataract operation varies between 6000 and 5000. This year the target set by the health department was around 6,500 out of which he had done 3400 till November. The camp was held to contribute to the remaining target.
Palod further said that the only way to meet targets was by holding camps. “It is very common to see health camps being held for various departments. These include sterilization camps, eye camps and other areas.”
Awarding a sum of Rs 450 per operation to the doctor apart from lenses, medicines and other facilities, the operation which is priced at around Rs 7,500 to Rs 45,000 in private hospitals is done free of charge at the hospital.
Madhuri Krishna Swami, a social activist working with the tribal in Barwani, said, “There is no post operative care in these hospitals because they do not have the space to do it. So they send the patients away when ideally they should stay for a day or two. If there was good post operative care, the infection would have been detected much earlier and no one would have lost their eye sight.”